Rogue Ink

July 8, 2008

The Money Talks, Day One: How Much Money Do You Need? A Lot More Than You Think.

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 5:41 am
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Budgets suck. Budgets tell you that you don’t have enough money to do that, but you do have enough money to do this other thing, that you really don’t want to do, but which is smart to invest in for the future or whatall. Budgets are like the parent who told you no, you couldn’t have that toy you wanted when you were a kid, and refused to say why, just ‘because’. Except now you know why, and the reason is: you’re broke. Budgets are not, shall we say, harbringers of joy.

However. In order to figure out how much money you want your business to make, you have to figure out how much money you need. This is generally called budgeting, but since we have established that budgeting sucks, we shall call it ‘dinglefrapping,’ since our version is going to be more fun. Spoiler: Count Dracula is involved. Yes, I know. I’m excited too.

The Basic Dinglefrapp

The basic dinglefrapp includes all the obvious things – food, shelter, health, transportation, and that ever-important category of ‘miscellany’. ‘Miscellany’ is for all the stuff you forget you need until you really need it, like toothpicks or cotton balls or single-malt Irish whiskey (yes, they make single-malt Irish whiskey, and yes, you really need some. No, it’s not better than the best Scottish ones, but it is damned good. Yes, this parenthesis has gone on a little too long. No, I don’t know why).

The basic dinglefrapp is not difficult to figure out. You have your bills. Add them up. Round upwards, not downwards, because you will always spend more money than you meant to. Since I’m a single gal living on my own, my expenses may be less than yours. I am sure you will be able to adjust. My basic dinglefrapp breaks down about like so (rounding up because I hear math is easier when everything ends in zeroes. This may explain why my inclination is always to have no money. It is the ultimate zero, the lack of money.)

Rent and utilities: $900
Loan repayments: $400
Food: $150
Health insurance: $130
Gas: $40 (gotta love no commute)
Miscellany: $150

Don’t ask what’s in miscellany. I honestly don’t know. I just know the money is gone at the end of the month. It could be cotton balls and whatall, but what’s more likely is that it’s my tribute to the Queen of the Moths or something. I fork over the cash, she doesn’t send her brethren to eat me in the night. This seems more reasonable, especially since I know perfectly well I don’t have any cotton balls.

My Basic Dinglefrapp: $1,800 monthly. Cool. Now let’s shake it up.

Dinglefrapp Plus

Aw yeah. Dinglefrapp Plus don’t play. Or rather, it do. Dinglefrapp Plus is all about the non-necessities.

You also need money for books, for entertainment, for vacations, for random moments of stupidity, for eating out, for the random sock puppet you just have to have, for ice cream on a summer night, for the glass slippers you’ll need for the ball you might get invited to, for the impromptu surgery you’ll need to get the glass out of your feet when you smash them, which you will the very second you forget they’re made out of glass and the laws of physics always work against you and your fairytale recreations.

Make the budget for the lifestyle of your dreams. If I had my druthers, I would spend $100 a week on books, and this is not an exaggeration. I want druthers bad. What are druthers? They sound amazing. If, in the lifestyle of your dreams, you went to the movies once a week, by all that is holy, stick that in the dinglefrapp. If the lifestyle of your dreams includes buying a 1985 Aston Martin, go ahead and budget some monthly cash for that. If the lifestyle of your dreams includes getting sunk in a bathtub full of porridge while the cast of Spring Awakening serenades you, I regret to inform you that you are insane and should probably commit yourself forthwith.

But dinglefrapp for it anyway. You never know.

Harold’s Law

Many of you will be automatically discounting the Dinglefrapp Plus about now. “Look,” you’re saying. “That’s all well and good, but I don’t need to put anything in my dinglefrapp that is not essential because I am scared that I will not get the bills paid if I do not just focus on getting the important things taken care of. I’ll skip going out to the movies. I’m fine. Really, Dinglefrapp Basic is fine with me.”

I do not know how you can bring yourself to doubt an institution called the Dinglefrapp Plus, but since the dissent has been making itself known, I shall rebut. I had a perfectly reasonable goal of $1,800 a month. Perfectly doable. Why am I tacking a bunch of extra stuff on there to eff it all up?

Because of Harold’s Law, my friends. Harold’s Law will get you.

Harold’s Law is similar to Murphy’s Law, which states that if anything can go wrong it will and at the worst possible time. Harold’s Law states that any stated goal will be missed by just the hairsbreadth necessary to make you think that were you a better man, you would have attained it. (Harold was kind of a bastard. He got his head flushed a lot in grade school.)

Now, I have circumnavigated Murphy’s Law many a time, because one of its sub-components is that anything you anticipate going wrong is not the thing that will happen. My strategy for overcoming Murphy’s Law is to worry constantly about all of the worst things that could happen and completely neglect to worry about the trivial ones. This leaves Murphy’s Law no option but to make something fairly minor go wrong, which I then fix easily with my mighty skill and come out looking a dashing rogue indeed.

Harold’s Law also has a loophole, and it is essential to understanding the logic behind the Dinglefrapp Plus. Harold’s Law states that you will fail to miss your goal by a hairsbreadth, no matter what that goal might be. If your goal is $1,800, you will fail to hit it. You will only make $1,700. If your goal is $5,000, you will fail to hit that goal too, but only by a hairsbreadth. You may only make $4,700. And wouldn’t that be a damned shame?

Huge Unrealistic Goals.

If the triviality of adding a bunch of fun stuff to your budget is simply beyond you, set yourself a huge unrealistic goal. A big expenditure. A down payment on a new house, six months’ worth of vacation expenses, a candelabra from the original Count Dracula castle. Make it a real one, make it something you badly need, make it something you thought you might begin saving for some time way in the future. The future is here, and it has a Huge Unrealistic Goal squatting in the middle of it.

My personal Huge Unrealistic Goal for the next six months is a valiant attempt to get out of debt. I want to pay off all of my student loans. They total about $18,000. I just tacked on an extra $3,000 to my monthly goal. Take that, Harold’s Law. The rogue ain’t playin’.

Some of you will already have Huge Unrealistic Goals by sheer dint of having more responsibilities than I do. You may have spouses, children or really spoiled houseplants (seriously, they don’t need the designer fertilizer. You realize it’s not actually unicorn dung, right?) and thusly your entire life is already a Huge Unrealistic Goal, and you really don’t have the energy to contemplate adding anything more to it.

Do it anyway. Add a Demi-Size Unrealistic Goal. Maybe it’s an extra couple hundred toward starting that restaurant you’ve always dreamed of where all the dishes are composed of gummi candy. Maybe it’s your kids’ college fund. Add it on there. Seriously. You need it. Here’s why.

Shoot for Absurdity. When You Miss, You Might Wind Up in Functional. Well, You Won’t, but You’ll Have More Fun Than the Other Bastards Who Missed and Didn’t Try for Absurd.

Give yourself a higher goal than you need. Your Huge Unrealistic Goal is there to fail. It is okay if it fails. That is its purpose. The entire point of your Huge Unrealistic Goal is to circumnavigate Harold’s Law. The dream may not happen, but you will always eat, and you will always pay your rent on time, and the houseplants will rejoice in unicorn dung.

The Demon of Complacency

When your goal is only $1,800 a month, you can justify all kinds of things. A nice way to break down how much you need to make is by dividing that monthly sum up by the day. You need to make $50 a day. No problem, right? Hell, that’s Californian minimum wage. You could make $50 a day serving up decaf venti soy no-foam half-shot cinnamon two-shot vanilla lattes at Starbucks. And you’re a professional, right? No biggie for you to make a couple hundred a day. So you might as well take today off and go to the turtle races, and make $100 tomorrow instead.

I can make $1,800 a month without trying too hard. That’s two to three clients a month with mid-to-low sized projects, and that is doable. It is also a ticket to Complacentville, and we do not advocate that sort of thing. The great rogues of history would have sneezed, yea, sneezed upon such a paltry sum. It is not worthy of roguishness. Set yourself a huge goal, a worthy goal. A scary goal. I’m shooting for something more like $5,000 a month. I can’t make that easily. I have get my day started earlier, got to work hard. No time for Complacentville when the Huge Unrealistic Goal is calling you home to Awesometown.

Your goal has to freak you out a little bit. It should get your heart moving in the morning like opening your eyes to a marionette with one of those weirdly creepy Victorian masks for a face. If you open your eyes in the morning and the first thing you think of is, “Fuck. How’m I going to make $300 today,” I guarantee you that you will get out of bed just a little bit faster than you would otherwise. Unless that marionette was dangling right above your face. You’d probably get up pretty quick for that.

The Daily Desperation.

Peter Bowerman, author of the excellent Well-Fed Writer books, said he put up a piece of paper over his desk. He started with his goal number. We’ll take mine – $30,000 in the next six months. Then he made a list, like so:

$30,000 in six months
$5,000 per month
$1,153.85 per week
$230.77 per workday
Where’s the $230.77 coming from today?

His was much more impressive, since somehow he managed to get his math down to the point where his final number was a nice round $200. I don’t know how he did that. Clearly Bowerman can do math. The point stands, though. When you’re sitting in front of your computer and you don’t have any work lined up, that number is motivational. It’s not an absurd number, but it’s enough to freak you out. Get the blood moving. Shake up your sanity. (I just figured out where my Miscellany money goes. It goes to stock up on sanity. You can get a six-pack of sanity at Costco for $49.95. Very reasonable.)

That’s a fair amount of money per day. Makes you a little desperate, a little panicky, but in a good way, in a controlled way, in a way that suggests you could fix this problem if you could just figure out whether it’s the red or the black wire that gets you blown to smithereens. And you can fix the problem. The red wire is doing nothing and feeling sorry for yourself. The black wire is getting some business. Which one of them is going to save you? (Note: if you cannot figure that one out, kindly do not be the person who will save us in the event that someone leaves a careless bomb lying about an important building in which I reside. Please leave that task up to people better suited for it, like Bruce Willis. Thank you for your attention regarding this matter.)

We’re going to talk about how to apply your newfound Unrealistically Huge money needs to your rates tomorrow. Tune in.

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12 Comments »

  1. I’ll participate, if only because I’ve just contracted 3:30-itis and need something to make me think and wake myself up again:

    (Note: I’m in AU$)

    Dinglefrapp Basic:
    Rent and utilities: The advantage to being under 25 is that it’s still okay to move back home and scrounge off the folks. The disadvantage is that you know what it’s been like to live out of home. So, $0 but unimaginable psychological anguish.
    Loan repayments: $0
    Food: $250
    Insurance/registration of various sorts: $200
    Gas: $150
    Miscellany: $200

    Total: $800 a month. I’m a simple man with simple needs (:

    Dinglefrapp Plus:
    Saving for European holiday: $1,000
    Books: $100
    ‘Going out’: $100

    Total: $1,200 a month.

    Which brings me to a nice, round $2,000 a month. Now, to my HUG. My HUG is to pay off my HECS debt (similar to your student loans, I assume) which sits at about $25,000, within the next two years. So that’s $12,500 a year, which is roughly $1,050 per month. So now I’m sitting with $3,050 a month as my Harold’s Law adjusted goal.

    Daily Desperation:
    $36,600 in twelve months
    $18,300 per six months
    $3,050 per month
    $762.50 per week
    $152.50 per workday

    All done, next!

    P.S. It worked to wake me up, off to the lab!

    Comment by toothsoup — July 8, 2008 @ 7:36 am | Reply

  2. Heehee @ Toothsoup — My rent just went up and I am currently trying to decided whether unimaginable psychological anguish is cheaper than the $700 a month I am paying for a room in a sharehouse with a nutjob housemate but no insulation (ie it is effing cold). How much are shrinks these days? $150 an hour? One session a week while living at home may just be cheaper than rents in Perth.

    Urgh, I hate budgets. Numbers make my head hurt. Although… I wonder if I’d do more work at work if I got paid on an output basis? Yeah, that’d get the blood moving 😛

    Comment by Sunili — July 8, 2008 @ 8:16 am | Reply

  3. Dude, you just blew my mind. Now, I know about Dinglefrapps; I have a Dinglefrapp. My dayjob + side projects make just enough for my Dignlefrapp and I know want to go self-employed full-time within a year. Despite being generally clever and knowledgeable about Dinglefrapps, never have I moved down the path to “Daily Desperation”. I was stuck at “How can I be full-time? How can I be sure I make enough? What’s enough? Gaaaah!” And the suddenly, you rocked my world: I just need to take my Dinglefrapp, break it down, break it down, break it down until I have my daily number. I’ll work on making my daily number in the next year and when I do that (for say, a month or two), I’ll know I’m ready to quit the dayjob! Hoorah!

    PS. I’d totally quit the dayjob this minute and be Rogue-ish about it, but I have two cats, a pup and a Poli Sci/History double-major husband (in a small town like ours that reads: unemployable) to keep in kitty/puppy/human chow.

    Comment by Tara — July 8, 2008 @ 1:26 pm | Reply

  4. It’s funny how my mind works. Although I do not like numbers, I love budgets. I can read and analyze a P&L statement and make adjustments and have an intuitive knack for figuring out where to change something to make the percentages work. But I couldn’t explain it or tell you why. And I have always done the break it down into a daily goal thing. So I am saying from experience that what you have outlined here works. It does… IF you follow it once you have outlined it of course, but the very act of writing things down and putting them on paper and making them clear is such a good start that it paves the way for great things. You have done a very nice job of explaining all of this.

    Very good Rogue Queen, looking forward to more tomorrow!

    Comment by wendikelly — July 8, 2008 @ 2:01 pm | Reply

  5. Toothsoup: Yay for participants! Your Dinglefrapp looks lovely. I wish I could handle the psychological anguish of living at home, but I must say having a house to myself for the first time in my life is worth every penny. Though a fair portion of my Miscellany goes into continually fixing it up. This week: I have doors. It’s very exciting.

    Sunili: Shockingly enough, we are going to discuss emotional anguish a little later in the week. Huzzah for emotional anguish!

    Tara: Rogue Ink: Blowing Your Mind Every Day With Made-Up Words. It’s going to be my new slogan.

    Wendi: Thanks, Wendi. Yeah, down on paper’s always the rough bit. That’s why I’m doing it here. Double whammy of blog post and convenience. Win!

    Comment by Tei — July 8, 2008 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

  6. I was taking a brief break from wire contemplation (there are three wires here, aaachh!) and your intro to money post beckoned from my inbox. I needed this one…again. Thanks. I think I love you, too…or is that hate? It’s a thin line. Maybe I’ll straddle it until all of the wires are black, my Dinglefrapp is under control, and I’ve had a chance to get to Costco.

    Before I head back to do battle with my Dinglefrapp, thought I’d let folks with math aversion (I’m with you) know about a couple of spreadsheets I found by folks who apparently like that sort of thing. They are free resources – one will calculate how much you need to earn to buy everything you want/need (even figures in monthly upkeep, interest, and such). The other breaks down your salary to minutes. Here’s motivation — Is that episode of “America’s Most Obnoxious TV Show” really worth $15.37 to me ($30K salary), or should I be doing something else with that time?

    If you’re interested check out “How Much Is Enough” and “How Much Is Time Worth” at http://www.jian.com/SUPPORT/Free-Resources/index.html. BTW, I didn’t build it; I just went.

    Comment by April, the Chief Cook & Bottle Washer — July 8, 2008 @ 5:22 pm | Reply

  7. Shakespeare supposedly made up 1/3 of the words he used. (That’s 33% of the lexicon borrowed from other languages, not every third word is gibberish.)

    So. Dinglefrapper. You’re in good company. Cool post.

    Too bad the only way to make our family budget work is to increase the income. That’s the law of blood and turnips, I think.

    Comment by Mark Goodyear — July 9, 2008 @ 6:28 pm | Reply

  8. I’m not going to dinglefrapp here, because the dinglefrapping in my house always ends up in tears, sulking, and buying chocolate which was not on the dinglefrapp. I am a fan of the dinglefrapp Plus (somehow that is a french Plus and not + to my inner narrator) and my husband promotes the Dinglefrapp-Basic-meets-survivor-man variety.

    Also, you must always include the the horsemen of Heralds Law: inflation, income taxes, and the LIFESTYLE ESCALATOR.

    The law of diminishing returns is mostly always true. That first bite of panna cotta or sip of really good wine, does taste better than the last one. It is new, fresh and your taste buds get excited. This is the same with other material things too- think back to those other “firsts” such as your first pair of really nice high heels, first party dress, and the first of most anything that can be taken to excess.

    BUT: the law of diminishing returns does not apply to Sex or Money. Your first time was probably not your best, and you do not begin to appreciate sex less by having more of it. Some survey out there that someone quoted to me also said that wealth does not make you happy but marginal wealth- or how much wealthier you are than people around you- does.

    Hence, the lifestyle escalator. If the misc. category of your dinglefrapp currently allots 250 dollars a month, in six months, you’re going to need at least 300. Why? Because either that same bottle of single malt Irish whiskey is going to cost more (Don’t forget that we’re turning corn and mash into Ethanol) or you’re going to upgrade from the mason jar variety to the Liquor Mart special.

    Comment by MonstersMama — July 9, 2008 @ 9:29 pm | Reply

  9. […] the first day of the Money Talks, where we figured out how much money I had to make daily? It was about $230. […]

    Pingback by The Money Talks, Day Two: Hourly Rates, Calculation and Confirmation. And Confusion. « Rogue Ink — July 11, 2008 @ 2:17 am | Reply

  10. As a lover of numbers but hater of money (the concept, not the stuff itself), I have my own reasons for disliking the bu– ahem, dinglefrapp. I like to believe that everything will work out, no matter if it’s in the dinglefrapp or not. I’m starting the dinglefrapping process nonetheless, because after all, it’s just numbers, and numbers are my friends. Really.

    That said, I was quite shaken when you accidentally threw in the b-word in the first line of the Huge Unrealistic Goals section. There I was in happy la-la land, joyously learning the rules of the dinglefrapp game, when suddenly, reality came crashing in and the whole game suddenly started to smell like unicorn dung. I inhaled deeply, knowing there was no dung actually there since there were no unicorns, and then closed my eyes and let myself believe again. (But I had to let you know how this “typo” affected me!)

    Anyways, I’m off to twiddle my dinglefrapp — hey! get your mind out of the gutter! 😛

    Comment by Qrystal — July 11, 2008 @ 11:42 pm | Reply

  11. Is this the point where I point out, in order to wind up with a nice even $200/day, you just do the math backwards? As in…

    $200/day
    $6,000/month
    $36,000/6 months
    $72,000/year

    Because 200*30=6,000; then 6,000*6=36,000; then 36,000*2=72,000

    Jesus. I thought you were supposed to be the one who’s good (or at least, better than me) at math! Didn’t you get a higher score on the AP Calc test?

    Comment by Tessa — July 17, 2008 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

  12. I love it! I am going to have to work through some other time, but just reading through, it reminds me of a quote I heard somewhere…”I just need enough to tide me over until I need more.” I will be back to learn more shortly. Thanks!

    Comment by Sal — August 1, 2008 @ 12:27 pm | Reply


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